Our ascent of Mount Ventoux
If your life mosaic contains an intense conviction, a grand passion, a huge love, you may have a personal mecca in mind – a destination where you can indulge in peak experiences that typify your passion, and meet others who share it. For years afterward, you’ll be able to think back on your journey and relive your delight . “I did it!” you’ll sigh to yourself and anyone else who will listen.
For serious road cyclists, Mount Ventoux (literally “Mount Windy”) is such a mecca. Winding 1912 metres out of the Rhone Valley, its white head in the clouds, Ventoux beckons cyclists from all over the world to try their legs and their luck at ascending it. If you want to be a member of the Mount Ventoux Cingles Club (which translates as “Club Crazy”), you can sign up to ascend Mount Ventoux via three separate routes – all in one day.
For Lorne, a highlight of our trip to Provence was to have become a proud inductee into Club Crazy. Unfortunately, two weeks before our departure, he was involved in a cycling crash, fracturing his collarbone and ribs, and breaking his elbow so severely that it required surgery. One of the first things that Lorne said when I visited him in the hospital after the operation was that the orthopaedic surgeon had suggested we delay our trip to Provence. ” ‘I told him, ‘No way,’ ” Lorne mumbled, through the lingering haze of his anaesthetic.
And so our ascent of Mount Ventoux would still happen, just from the confines of our rental Peugeot. Luckily, Lorne’s arm was removed from its cast before we left Canada, and he now releases it from the sling during the day, so at least he can get behind the wheel and pilot us up the mountain. The pavement is painted with still-visible remnants of encouragement messages for the Tour de France riders who made the ascent only a few weeks ago. We pass scores of cyclists – tanned, lean, intense, in peacock-bright singlets and wrap-around shades. Not all of them are young or male, and a surprising percentage are sans helmets. The highway is no wider than any other secondary road in France, characterized by switchbacks, blind corners, and few shoulders. With both vehicles and bicycles ascending and descending, Lorne has to remain alert behind the wheel, especially nearing the top where some cyclists are wobbling with fatigue.
Somehow, we all manage to avoid colliding with each other, and we reach the summit. Professional and amateur photographers are snapping celebratory pics, and cyclists are congratulating each other with handshakes, backslaps, and kudos in a dozen different languages.Our own celebration is more low key. We drink in the spectacular views of the Alps. I take a photo of Lorne for his Facebook page. At the gift shop, Lorne looks at the Mount Ventoux singlets.Ultimately,he decides to delay buying one until he can wear it as a part of his own future peak cycling experience.